The Golden State Warriors are out of salary-cap space.
This isn't a bad thing, as the roster is close to complete. It simply means that, after using their mid-level exception on Shaun Livingston on July 1 and their biannual exception on Jermaine O'Neal last summer, they can only add players at the veteran's minimum.
Of course, there are other options. If the Warriors execute a sign-and-trade, they can use their $9.8 million trade exception to bring in a free agent at a price around $6 million (due to the need to balance contracts).
They can also move a current player—David Lee being the most logical option due to his contract size and the team's depth at power forward—to satisfy more pressing needs elsewhere.
However, while those options seem (are) flashier, the value of the veteran's minimum should not be underestimated. While the Warriors cannot add Pau Gasol, Vince Carter or some other needle-moving veteran, there are multiple benefits to taking a step back and completing the 2014-15 roster with minimum contracts.
Advantages of Using Veteran's Minimum
The most obvious reason to use the veteran's minimum is that it's cheap, and cheapness is great for a team's salary cap.
While the Warriors cannot add a ton of payroll—even if they want to—they are below the luxury-tax threshold and could add another beefy contract using their trade exception. Saving that money will allow the team more cap flexibility during the season, next summer and beyond, which could prove vital with not-yet-extended youngsters such as Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli.
There is no way of knowing how many of these guys will ultimately be worth extending, but throwing a three-year, $18 million deal at someone right could limit Golden State's options here.
The second reason to stick with minimum contracts is that it could net the team multiple quality players.
Remember, this is how the Miami Heat constructed their bench after committing their money to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Veterans tend to care more about winning than an extra million dollars, and teams are allowed to sign as many guys to minimum contracts as they want.
Another advantage to using the veteran's minimum is that the Warriors can keep all their assets. Lee might be tradable, but he's still a very good player who undoubtedly helps his team win. A sign-and-trade would cost the Warriors something, even if it is something as small as a second-round pick or the rights to Nemanja Nedovic.
The final reason—and really, the most important one—to complete the roster in this fashion is that there is an excellent crop of free agents available who have "veteran's minimum" written all over them.
The following is a look at some of the best options for Golden State, starting with the most realistic and ending with the best-case scenario.
Jason Smith, C
Jermaine O'Neal has not yet announced whether or not he will play a 19th NBA season or retire. While the Warriors would love to have him back due to his leadership ability to score in the post, Jason Smith is the next-best option.
He is not a very good per-minute rebounder with just 7.9 boards per 36 minutes. That's a number that five qualifying Warriors players bested last season, despite only one—Andrew Bogut—who has as much size as Smith.
Smith is also a poor shot-blocker, and his limited lateral quickness makes him somewhat of a defensive liability. But his 7'0", 240-pound frame does clog the lane, and with Bogut and Festus Ezeli splitting the bulk of the minutes at center, the Warriors don't need a major rim protector.
What they need is scoring and floor spacing. Smith has a great mid-range jumper with range extending out near the three-point line. He can also score inside with solid efficiency and has the ability to put the ball on the floor and get up and down the court.
If Golden State is healthy, it won't be playing Smith much outside of garbage time on most nights. But on nights where the team needs a scoring boost from the 5 spot or sees its two bigs getting into foul trouble, it would be nice to have a 7-footer who can fill the lane and get some buckets.
Likelihood of signing minimum deal: Very high
Ability to help Golden State: Fair
Anthony Morrow, SG/SF
Not that it will make him more likely to sign, but the Warriors did give Anthony Morrow a shot back in 2008, when he was an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech.
He made the most of the shot—both the one the Warriors gave him and his own—by leading the league in three-point percentage his rookie year. He's bounced around since but has established himself as one of the best pure shooters in the NBA, knocking down 1.5 triples a game at a 42.8 percent clip over six seasons.
The Warriors already have the two best shooters on the planet in Thompson and Stephen Curry, but two shooters can only do so much for a team. The Warriors did not have a three-point specialist off the bench last season, which was one of the biggest reasons the team had one of the worst scoring benches in the league.
With the jump shooting-challenged Livingston replacing last year's backup point guard merry-go-round of Toney Douglas, Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake—all solid outside shooters—the Warriors bench will create even less space.
There isn't much point in having slashers like Livingston or Barnes when the opposition can simply pack the paint.
Morrow fixes this in a heartbeat. He cannot defend, but Livingston, Barnes, Green and Ezeli comprise one of the most terrifying defensive bench quartets in the association. With an elite shooter like Morrow added to the mix, the rest of the bench suddenly looks so much better.
The only question is whether or not Morrow would rather get paid more elsewhere or come to Oakland and be a difference-maker on a title contender.
Likelihood of signing minimum deal: Fair
Ability to help Golden State: High
Brandon Rush, SG/SF
Another former Warriors wing would be a perfect fit on the team's bench. If Brandon Rush is healthy, he's a better option than Anthony Morrow. The problem is that he's missed the majority of the past two seasons recovering from a gruesome ACL injury that he suffered while still playing for Golden State.
Before the injury, Rush looked like a player who was putting it all together. He had a phenomenal outside shot, the ability to finish above the rim and size, length, agility and athleticism that made him a dynamite perimeter defender.
Basically, Rush was Danny Green with a better handle.
If Rush was still that player, there would be no reason to mention him as a potential veteran's minimum candidate. And even after missing nearly two full seasons, the potential he flashed two years ago should be enough for a team with cap space to throw him a multimillion dollar one-year deal.
Whereas a healthy, proven player like Morrow may be content to take less money and go for a title, a player coming off a career-threatening injury is probably going to—and should— take every penny he can get.
Hopefully for Golden State, he is willing to take a small pay cut in exchange for a second-year option, a chance to win and a chance to play where he played his best basketball three years ago.
Likelihood of signing minimum deal: Somewhat low
Ability to help Golden State: Very high, health permitting
Marvin Williams, SF/PF
The Warriors' biggest need is a shooting big man. It's why they have entertained the idea of parting with Thompson (even though it looks like they, smartly, won't do it) to bring in Kevin Love. It's why the team was linked to Channing Frye and Spencer Hawes before they signed elsewhere.
Now, Marvin Williams is not the shooter or the player that Love, Frye and Hawes are. But he still shoots the three ball far better than Green and rebounds and plays inside better than Barnes, thus making him a better stretch 4 than either of them.
He's not an extremely versatile player, but he can play and defend two positions at an average level. His presence on the roster would also allow the Warriors to move Lee without needing any sort of immediate return in the frontcourt.
Williams is the final and most unlikely to sign of the four players discussed here. He wants a multiyear deal, and that almost certainly means he won't accept the veteran's minimum as his yearly rate.
However, the opportunity to play rotation minutes on a powerhouse team could entice Williams to sign a shorter deal, maybe one year plus a player option. If he has a strong season—which he is likely to do in a spacing-based offense with so many creators around him—he would hit the market with far more value next summer.
Likelihood of signing minimum deal: Low
Ability to help Golden State: Very high
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